Category: Miscellaneous

Television Review: Severance Season 1

I know there are a lot of different streaming platforms out there. Too many, I’d say. And I also know that of all the platforms out there, Apple TV+ is bad on many different levels. Their app is infuriatingly awful. When I’m watching a show on the platform, unless I’m bingeing it, it’s inordinately difficult for me to find the next episode. They don’t have much in the way of a back catalog. Almost everything on there is stuff that they made specifically for the platform. And so for the first while, there just wasn’t that much.

But lately? It feels like all that Apple money is beginning to pay off.

You’ve got Ted Lasso and For All Mankind, both of which I’ve really enjoyed. You’ve got the Best Picture Oscar winner, CODA, and there are a slew of other shows that I’m rapidly adding to my watch list. The one that I just finished, Severance, had an absolutely riveting first season.

It’s very much in the line of other “mystery” shows like Lost or Westworld. Shows that aren’t mysteries in a classical sense, where you’re trying to figure out who the killer is, but rather in an “I have no idea what’s happening in this, and I want to figure it out” sort of vein. It takes place in a world where people can be “severed,” which basically splits them into two personalities, neither able to communicate with the other. When one half of the severed person is in control, the other has no clue what’s going on at all. When they switch, it’s as if no time has passed for them at all, and they have no recollection of anything that’s been happening while they were severed.

Naturally, people use this to avoid work.

Well, they specifically use it to sever themselves and then have their severed half do all the work while they only need to worry about living life. But for their severed half, all they know is work. It helps that they wake up with no real recollection of anything at all when they’re first severed. They don’t know who they are, where they are, or why they are. And so in many ways they’re like children, and treated as such by their supervisors. Still, the whole concept doesn’t go down well with some of them, as one might expect.

The show’s a slow burn, developing some of the lives of the characters both inside work and outside it. And (as one might expect, with a second season on the way) it definitely doesn’t conclude everything by the end of the season. Answers just lead to more questions, as is so often the case in shows in this genre. That makes it difficult to really evaluate the show, since much of the final verdict rests on “do the show makers actually have any idea of what the real answers to all these mysteries are, or were we just strung along for the ride?”

But as far as first seasons go, this is a doozy of one, and I really enjoyed it. (Directed by Ben Stiller, of Meet the Parents fame, no less.) I gave it a 9/10, and I’m eagerly awaiting the next season.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Drivers License Tests

After a fair number of COVID-related (and other) delays, Tomas is finally facing down the bane of many a teenager’s existence: the drivers license test. And as I’ve been getting him ready for the thing, I’ve (naturally) reflected back on what I can remember of when I got my license. While I might like to pretend it wasn’t that long ago, it was actually 27 years, so . . . yeah.

I got my test on my first try. We had to drive a fair distance to get to the testing spot. I don’t remember that much of the actual test. I knew friends of mine had failed on their first try (or two), and I knew I didn’t want to be one of them. I was confident about most things, except for parallel parking. I also remember they had me parallel park between two cones, as opposed to between actual cars.

Of course, these days I still have enough trouble parallel parking that I will actively look for anywhere else to park before I resort to giving those skills another test. I hate the pressure around parallel parking. Making people behind me on the street wait (and watch) as I fumble my way through it. It’s not that I can’t do it–but it can take two tries, and that’s enough to make me not want to do it if at all possible.

I get that one of the main reasons to test parallel parking is to show the tester that you’re able to put the car where you want it to go. I also get that (at least where I typically drive) there aren’t that many places around that require me to put that skill into practice, so it’s no big surprise that when I’m asked to actually do the thing, I still struggle to do it. If I parallel parked all the time, I’m sure I’d (eventually) get better at it.

In any case, I wondered if any of you had any interesting stories around drivers tests. Mine is so boring. (I came. I drove. I passed.) No accidents. No near misses. No nothing. But surely some people out there had something with more pizzaz happen. So . . . care to share?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Why Aren’t We More Unified?

For the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, I’ve seen a lot of posts out there bemoaning the fact that our country came together to support each other 20 years ago, but we’re unable to do that today with the pandemic. The tacit assumption for all of that is that we’ve changed as a society, and that who we are now is fundamentally different than who we were then.

I’m not so sure that’s the case.

From what I’ve seen, people generally stay the same. They’re motivated by the same basic needs and fears. They’re looking for acceptance or validation or wealth or prestige. They want to provide for themselves or their family. They want to be safe and free. None of that has changed. On a local level, I still see people being people. Some of them are nicer than others. Some of them are meaner. But it’s not like that’s anything new.

And it’s important to remember a couple of things. First, when 9/11 happened, there was a very real, very tangible threat. Americans were unequivocally attacked, and so it was easy to band together against a common enemy. With the pandemic, that immediate threat didn’t really appear. The science behind what was going on was unclear at first which left things open for people to debate just how much of a threat really existed.

Anytime you’ve got room for debate, that debate will happen, if you involve enough people and give it enough time. And we’ve got plenty of people, and we’ve had plenty of time.

Second, the technology has changed drastically in the intervening 20 years. In 2001, there was no huge public forum for people to discuss issues and share ideas. As a reminder, here’s what CNN looked like that day. Here’s Fox News. See anything missing? Comments sections. Facebook was three years away. YouTube wouldn’t come until 2005. Even MySpace wasn’t around yet. There just wasn’t a place for people to argue.

That also means there was no way for news to spread quickly. There was also no platform for disinformation to run rampant. You had talk radio, and you had opinionated news sources, but if someone wanted to make up a news story, there was no way for them to do that and put it out in a way that the masses could be fooled into thinking it was real. Today, a lot of the really breaking news often appears on Twitter before it appears anywhere else. And making stuff up on Twitter takes pretty much no expertise at all.

It’s also important to remember that “unified” didn’t really count for everyone. There was mass discrimination against people from the Middle East (or people who looked like they were.) So sure, it might have felt great for many Americans, but it certainly didn’t feel great for many minorities. But again, that’s not the sort of thing that would easily appear on anyone’s radar. Not unless the news was actively reporting it.

And the unity wasn’t something that lasted incredibly long, either. Sure, President Bush’s popularity had a massive spike after the attacks, but within a year and a half, it was back down to about where it had been, and it only got worse from there.

Unified? Less than a year before 9/11, you had the contentious election of 2000, filled with debate over hanging chads and recounts. Opinions were very strong on both sides of that. It would have been much, much more heated if Gore had continued to press the issue and not conceded.

I think the biggest difference between then and now is that it’s easier to find out not everyone agrees with you. There are more platforms for people to speak up, many of them anonymously. And the challenge we’re facing is fundamentally different than the one we faced back in 2001. (And even back then, once we got past the attacks themselves, there came the big debate about who was responsible for it.

This might all seem discouraging, but I choose to look at it differently. I really believe the majority of Americans want the same basic things. The possibility of unity is still there, but in many ways we’re at the whims of our leaders. As long as our leaders refuse to compromise and lead by example, there will be no real chance of unity. Then again, we’re also in a unique situation where the people who believe the pandemic is a real threat also believe masking and vaccination are the way to defeat that threat. And the people who don’t want to mask or vaccinate generally don’t believe the pandemic is a real threat.

(Though again, I’d say a big part of that falls at the feet of key leaders and news organizations, willing to put their political and financial futures ahead of the health and safety of our country. At this point, the majority of people who are getting sick and dying of COVID are the unvaccinated. And the majority of those are Republican, according to polls. I really wonder if one side effect of this pandemic will be an even faster swing away from conservatism, for the simple reason that more conservatives end up dying than liberals. (Though, of course, there are also anti-vaxxers among liberals. They just don’t make up as big a slice of the pie.))

How often has perceived unity really just been a selective portrayal of what’s happening at any one moment? History often portrays complex issues as having had a consensus around their solution, but history typically favors the victor anyway . . .

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

When Your Prius Won’t Start

I’ve had my Prius for about 4 years now, and I’ve been very happy with it for the most part. The gas mileage is great, and with winter tires (a must around here for it), it handles snowy roads without too much complaint. Sure, it gets some jabs at it from time to time. I know what the word on the street about Prius owners is, but for the most part, I just don’t care. The car has given me no trouble to speak of.

Until recently.

A week and a half ago, when I went to start my Prius, it turned on the electrical system in the car, but didn’t actually start the car. The engine didn’t even turn over. Confused, I pressed the power button again, and the engine came to life. I dismissed it as a random strange thing, but the next time I tried to start the car, it did it again. This time, simply pressing the power button again did nothing. The electrical would come on, but the dashboard was nothing but warning lights.

Typically in a situation like this, my experience with cars says that if the electrical isn’t having any issues, then it can’t be the battery. And everything in car seemed fine as far as the electrical system went. Not knowing what else to do, I sat there turning it on and off again, hoping it would somehow roar back to life.

It did after about five minutes of this.

From then on, the car became more and more temperamental. I took it to my mechanic, who seemed to be at sea when it came to working on anything electrical with a Prius. He tested the battery and looked for warning messages, but the battery seemed fine, and the car wasn’t reporting anything was wrong. He had no idea what I should do. However, it was getting worse, and I had visions of me being stranded who-knows-where, with no idea how to get the car someplace it be fixed.

I googled the problem extensively, and I got conflicting answers. Certainly nothing conclusive. So I buckled down and made an appointment at the nearest Toyota dealership, 45 minutes away. I took the car in on Monday, and the verdict was the battery had gone bad. (Not the hybrid battery. The regular battery.)

It turns out, Priuses start up differently than most cars. In a regular car, you turn it on and it cranks the engine and you’re off and running. In a Prius, pressing the power button turns on the electrical system, which runs through a couple quick system checks and then sends a message to the battery to turn the car on. My battery had enough juice to run the electrical system, but not enough to get the car itself going. And Prius batteries are special snowflakes. They’re different than your typical car battery, for battery reasons I don’t care enough to figure out. They’re supposed to last about 4-5 years. Mine was going on 7.

All I know is that it cost me $385 to have the battery replaced, and the people at the dealership weren’t 100% sure it would fix it. “Probably” and “Almost definitely” were used a couple of times. Enough to make me skittish about paying, but what else was I going to do? I paid the money, they gave me a new battery, and off I drove. The car started right away without a hiccup, and it’s been steady ever since.

If only all problems in life could be so easily fixed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

To All the Paper Towels I’ve Used Before

It’s a well-known fact that not all paper towels are created equal. Some of them have all the absorbent qualities of cardboard, while others are like someone took a sponge and turned it into paper form through the miracle of modern science. The trick, of course, is finding that sweet spot where you’re not paying an arm and a leg for drying your hands, and you’re not just smearing water around while pretending you’re having some sort of an effect. There are bonus points for being environmentally friendly, as well.

And because This Is Important, I figured I’d devote a whole blog post to the topic. Ranking the drying methods out there, from worst to best. I’m going to use a couple of different factors to rate them each. First: ease of use. Second: affordability. Third: effectiveness. Fourth: environmental friendliness. Fifth: ick factor. You know you want to read it . . .

Public Restroom Drying Options

When heading to the bathroom in a public place, I almost always wash my hands. (The times I haven’t are more due to the fact that the sink is broken, or there is no soap, or the very thought of touching the sink convinces me it’ll be much worse in the long run, so I just go find some hand sanitizer instead.) However, there have been plenty of times I choose to just wipe my hands on my pants or air dry them instead. Here are some of the worst options:

  • Blown Air Dryers: Ease of use (2). Affordability (4). Effectiveness (1-3). Environmental Friendliness (3). Ick Factor (5). There are different types of air dryers. It’s a plus that they just need a press of a button or wave of the hand to get them going, but the thought of using one now (after COVID) leaves much to be desired. There are enough germs in a bathroom already. We really don’t need to make them more airborne. Plus, some air dryers are better than others. At the bottom of the heap are the one’s that don’t really blow much in the way of air. It’s more like a gentle breeze, and you’ll be standing there for the next 10 years before your hands are dry. Then there are the ones that make you stick your hand inside them to activate them, going on the theory that those germs aren’t just going to spread themselves, so it’s more helpful if you put your hands into a spot that can collect the germs and deliver them more efficiently. Then you’ve got the industrial wind machines that try to take your skin off, since skin can’t be wet if it’s not on your body. But blown air dryers really suffer because they are so hyper focused. You can’t wipe a table off with one. You can’t blow your nose with one. (Granted, I haven’t tried to blow my nose with one, but . . . )
  • Hand Towels: Ease of use (5). Affordability (1). Effectiveness (5). Environmental Friendliness (4). Ick Factor (5). I suppose some places think they’re being home-ier by providing real towels to dry hands. I would sooner use a rabid skunk, but maybe some people out there prefer these? When I see a towel in a public bathroom, I can’t help but think what horrors that towel has seen over the last days or weeks. True, there are those funky machines that have towels on some kind of a rolling loop mechanism, where you pull down to expose a new piece of towel, but I’ve always found them more than a little suspect. If I see anything cloth-related, I’ll just wave my hands dry, thank you very much. I don’t care if they’re effective or easy to use. No.
  • Paper Towels: Ease of use (1-5). Affordability (4). Effectiveness (1-5). Environmental Friendliness (3). Ick Factor (1). The good thing about a paper towel is that you know where it’s been. If it’s nice and crisp, you don’t have to worry about the ick factor too much. The problem with them is you never know the experience you’re going to have when you get one. Some of them absorb about as well as a rock. Some of them get drenched after you’ve put about a teaspoon of water into them. Some people solve this problem by just taking about a bakers’ dozen of the paper towels before they start to try to dry their hands, but that really sinks the environmental friendliness score. On the other hand, you can indeed take some of these for using elsewhere, so yay for that. In an ideal world, a public restroom has paper towels that dry your hands with a single towel. That rarely happens.

Home Options

  • Paper Towels: Ease of use (5). Affordability (2). Effectiveness (5). Environmental Friendliness (2). Ick Factor (1). If money were no object, and I didn’t care about the environment at all, then brand name paper towels would be where it was at. Bounty, baby. The quicker picker upper. My problem is that I hate throwing money away, and I hate just making extra unnecessary waste. Bounty does both of these. I generally compromise by getting the paper towels that are half as wide as the normal ones, and even then I end up tearing those in half to make sure I’m just using what I need. But I still have a hard time using one without thinking that I could have used a cloth napkin or a hand towel instead. That said, there are definitely things you just need a paper towel for. What sort of a monster kills a spider with cloth towel?
  • Cloth Napkins: Ease of use (4). Affordability (2). Effectiveness (4). Environmental Friendliness (2). Ick Factor (3). They definitely get the job done. The big problem here is that they’re often too small, and they tend to get stained after a while, to the point that you debate whether or not they’re really clean, even after they’re straight out of the washing machine. I always feel kind of guilty giving guests cloth napkins unless they’re pristine. (The napkins, not the guests.) Also, these aren’t the cheapest route to go by any means.
  • Hand Towels: Ease of use (5). Affordability (1). Effectiveness (5). Environmental Friendliness (2). Ick Factor (3). I mean, if I had money just coming out of my eyeballs, then I’d use hand towels for everything. Definitely absorbent. They’ll dry pretty much anything you need. But they just aren’t that good for single-use applications. Maybe I just need to get over my inner desire to make each hand towel last as long as humanly possible before I have to wash it . . .
  • Actual Towels: Ease of use (2). Affordability (1). Effectiveness (5). Environmental Friendliness (1). Ick Factor (5). Proof that there can, indeed, be too much of a good thing. For one thing, buying actual towels is neither cheap nor easy to use for most tasks. You’ve just got too much terry. For another, when I go to the bathroom at a friend’s house and all that’s there is their actual towel, I start to get flashbacks to public bathrooms. Just sayin’.

So what’s the solution? What’s the one towel to rule them all? I’m afraid the search continues, for me. So far, the most universal towel option I’ve found happens to typically be “wipe your hands on your pants.” Unfortunately, this has a very low Wife Tolerance Rating, which often ends up being the most critical score of all.

How about you? Got any good towel tips, or horror stories of what to avoid? Please share.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

%d bloggers like this: